Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution: A New Look at an Old Text *

After the strikes and demonstrations of 1921 in Germany, the revolutionary movement that had begun in 1919 ebbed, gradually depriving revolutionaries of space for collective action. Isolated, they were reduced to reflection and propaganda. After 1924, it was clear to these people that the social-democratic and bolshevik approach, to nationalize the means of production, led to a state-run form of capitalism. Indeed, the accelerated bolshevization of the Communist parties was accompanied by strengthening the ideology that identified socialism with state-capitalism, a system that gave a central place to the parties and trade unions of an authoritarian labor movement. Debates over the socialization of production based on workers’ councils had fizzled out. For their part, partisans of revolutionary syndicalism and the different currents of collectivist anarchism—also in the minority—remained faithful to their ideas: for the first, the revolutionary trade union structure remained the basis of the society’s future reconstruction; for the second, collectivization must be based on the communes. Within these minority groups claiming to follow the “council idea,” some felt a need to do more theoretical work on the foundations of a new society and economy. In Germany, some prominent actors of the Revolutionary Stewards, which had a determinant role in the opposition to the war and in the November revolution, were, with their paper Arbeiter-Rat, at the center of the debate around the council system.1 Because of their strong syndicalist nature and experience, they were particularly concerned with the relations between councils, parties, and unions. Other tendencies related to the “Unions” formed new organizations in workplaces against the old social-democratic unions and focused the debate about the council system on the reorganisation of the production of social and economic life. Inside these last currents—which had no organizational ties with the Revolutionary Stewards, but were more the product of the revolutionary events after November 1918—some thought it was not enough to talk about “the satisfaction of needs” or the “distribution of goods from a common fund of production”; that it was necessary to discuss a concrete project for reorganizing production and distribution.

In 1930, the small Group of International Communists (G.I.K.), Dutch particpants in the council movement, produced the text Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution.2 Henk Canne-Meijer, a key member of this group, explained the genesis of Fundamental Principles and its goals: Not by chance did he return to the debate over federalism versus centralism, which remained a sore point among non-bolshevik communists and anarchists, declaring it “meaningless, if one does not first show what the economic basis of this “federalism” or this “centralism” will be. Indeed, the forms of a given economic system are not arbitrary: they derive from the actual principles of that economy. Also, the principle of profit and surplus value, of its private or collective appropriation, will be found at the root of all forms of a capitalist economy. This is why it is not sufficient to present a communist economy in negative terms: i.e., no money, no market, no private property, no state. It is necessary to emphasize its character in positive terms, to show the economic laws that will supplant those of capitalism.” These new economic laws should correspond to a reorganization of society in which the producers would directly control their activities and their goals. The council-communists remain sympathetic to anarchist proposals about the social reorganization of production,3 giving credit to anarchist theorists for having understood—well before the classic Marxists—the necessity of suppressing private property. But they drew lessons from the Russian experience, which let them see further ahead; it became clear that the suppression of private property did not in it self abolish exploitation. Also, the period of “war communism” and the exchange of goods in kind, demonstrated that putting off dealing with the wage system was compatible with the continuation of exploitation.

For the advocates of council communism, social reorganization should go beyond a negative critique of the social-democratic version of socialism or state-capitalism, and its foundations should be workers’ self-government. In this sense, the council movement was a first attempt to imagine forms of organization adapted to a new type of revolution. “The Russian revolution, like the German revolution, found its organizational expression in the council movement. But in these two cases, the movement revealed itself to be incapable of holding onto political power and using it to construct a socialist economy.”4

In the new system, the economic sphere would not be separated from political organization and the new economic laws would be consciously accepted. This presupposed the existence of a democratic organization at the rank-and-file level where the producers exercised their power—the only condition that made it possible to calculate production and distribution outside of market relations. In this regard, the authors of Fundamental Principles remained close to Marx’s ideas about communism, especially about the measure of labor time, which “will be the basis for the production and distribution of the total social product.”5 They also thought that the way in which the part of the social wealth not directly distributed to the producers would be allocated to assure the common good would characterize the new society.

With respect to the debate over centralization and decentralization, the authors of Principles thought that the idea of a system of independent producer-controlled enterprises recalled the old Proudhonian concept of a federation of independent communes. They saw in this a danger: in the long run, such decentralization risked leading to its opposite, to state centralization of the entire economy and the loss of workers’ control over their activities and their organizations. This danger had earlier been underscored by the Austrian economist Otto Neurath: “Only the organization of all the councils . . . could guarantee economic cohesion in periods of instability . . . and prevent its disorganization by those [isolated] factory councils that exceed their function in inciting decentralization.”6 On the other hand, the Russian experience had confirmed that direct control by workers’ collectives was incompatible with a centrally planned economy. The centralized economy was established on the defeat of workers’ management. Consequently, partisans of the council system defended a mode of economic planning that remained under the horizontal control of the producers.

Theorizing a council-communist social system, the Dutch socialist (and famous astronomer) Anton Pannekoek7 limited himself to indicating how the direct distribution of products outside of any forms of value-exchange might be possible: “In a society where production goes directly to consumption, there is neither a market for exchanging products nor value, as an expression of the labor crystallized in the product which establishes itself automatically in the processes of buying and selling. Therefore, it is necessary that the labor used in production be directly calculated by the number of hours of labor time.”8 Along the same lines, the authors of Fundamental Principles set out to build an abstract model of a system based on labor time. They had the idea that “labor vouchers” issued to workers in accordance with their labor time would provide a mechanism to regulate production and consumption. In Fundamental Principles, individual labor is regarded as a fraction of the total social labor directly materialized in its products; as the producers do not exchange products among themselves, the labor incorporated in products does not give the latter a new quality, which would appear as its exchange value (money price). Thus these vouchers would not be money, because they would not circulate; they could not be exchanged either among individuals or among economic entities, but would provide an accounting system.

From the beginning, this idea provoked doubts and debates within the small world of council supporters.

Fundamental Principles rested heavily on Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program (1875) where he briefly addressed the nature of communism. Written not long after the 1871 Paris Commune, the text notably contained a polemic against the German social-democratic program that Marx disdainfully described as a collection of rubbish, of “hollow phrases,” against which he wanted to put forward concrete proposals. Marx referred to two inseparable and indistinct phases of “communism”: a “first phase” and a “higher phase.” In the first phase, consumption is linked to labor time, but exchange is not made in terms of value since labor no longer appears in the form of a commodity. Defining the “higher phase,” Marx wrote, “With the all-around development of the individual [. . .] the productive forces have also increased, and all of the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly . . .”

In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but itself life’s prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly—only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!

Aware that his “first phase” could seem to have some points in common with the capitalist system, Marx elaborated, “Obviously, the same principle that governs the exchange of commodities prevails here, in as far as this is an exchange of equivalents. Content and form are changed, because, as the conditions have changed, no one can furnish anything but his labor; and, furthermore, nothing can become the property of individuals, except the means of personal consumption.”9 By “changed conditions” Marx most likely had in mind the social relations in a social organization governed by a system of direct democracy, such as Marx had identified in the Paris Commune. He emphasized that it is labor as a common measure that gives this model its appearance of equality. However, because individuals are not the same and have different and unequal productive capacities, there is in this right of equality, “in its content, a right of inequality, as in every right.”10 Marx concluded, “All these defects are inevitable in the first phase of communist society, when it has just emerged after prolonged birth pangs from capitalist society.”11 In his mind, this equivalent “calculated in labor time,” a proposed common measure, has nothing to do with a “value” equivalent. In a society in transition, contrary to what occurs in capitalist society, “the producers do not at all exchange their products; likewise, the labor incorporated in these products does not appear . . . as the value of these products, as a quality they possess.”12

In Marx’s argument, it was ultimately vague and relative conceptions of “abundance” and “all-around development” that distinguished the two phases and determined the transition towards the “higher phase.” Subsequently, a certain orthodoxy felt authorized to conclude that only a certain level of the development of the productive forces corresponding to this “state of abundance and all-around development” would make it possible to move out of the transition period. What remains troublesome is the meaning of the concept of “abundance” and the fact that “all-around development” is probably not reducible to the “abundance” of material goods.

Revolutionaries in the 1920s did not unanimously adopt Marx’s proposal with respect to distribution. Otto Neurath was among those who considered Marx’s scheme open to debate. For him, one should be able to choose among different principles of distribution, even under the same principle of production, in the new socialist order. “In the socialist economic order, you could have two plans that were almost identical in terms of production but totally different from each other in terms of consumption, when you applied different principles of distribution.” More specifically: “The distribution of living conditions (housing, clothing, education, leisure, creativity, travel, etc.) could be managed in different ways, and much freedom of choice is possible. There is no necessary link between an individual’s work capacity and what he receives; on the contrary, for example, the satisfaction of needs can be considered as the first objective.” In defending the principle that any model had to be confronted with the free choice of the people concerned, this champion of the Bavarian Council Republic of 1919 remained faithful to the council spirit. Freedom of choice among the different economic plans was a fundamental issue in socialism, the very meaning of direct democracy for the producers, the choice that had to be made according to “what is the most favorable to the quality of life, taking into account its pains and pleasures.”13

Like every text affected by the urgency of its times, Fundamental Principles must be confronted critically if it is to be of use at a later time. Hence, when members of the German student movement exhumed this work in the late 1960s, they asked Paul Mattick—who himself had participated in the German revolution and its radical sequels—to write a preface to a new edition of Fundamental Principles. For him, the text remained important: “The working class’s ‘economic principle’ is nothing but the suppression of exploitation. This is the ‘economic principle’ discussed in Fundamental Principles and, up to the present, it is the only work that deals with this.” That is to say, the organization of society is inseparable from the ability of the producers to maintain control over their own activities, an ability that must be exercised by their autonomous organizations practicing the broadest direct democracy. As we have emphasized, this was the essence of the council-communist idea. However, Paul Mattick, like others, considered that the calculation of production and distribution based on labor time, though certainly a solution, was not necessarily the only one possible or conceivable. He argued that if this calculation did not seem to pose a problem for the organization of production, it did introduce a major weakness when it was applied to the organization of distribution. The weakness, as Marx himself signaled, was that the distribution of products according to a calculation of labor time resulted in social inequality for the individual. The adoption of this unit of calculation, labor time, was not, in itself, a prerequisite for a communist society. Calculation for distribution could be done in various ways, for the entire production system or within each production unit. Once the basic material conditions of life were satisfied, it could accommodate different individual needs with a fraction of the social wealth not directly distributed. We have seen, for example, that Otto Neurath thought the choice of principles and criteria for production and distribution, whether or or not to adopt labor time as the “common denominator,” should remain open.

Inevitably, the debate in the late 1960s came back to the question of “abundance.” Paul Mattick observed that in modern society consumer goods were already produced in abundance, even if many of these goods, obviously, did not meet real needs. “In highly developed capitalist countries, that is to say, those in which social revolution is possible, the productive forces have attained a level sufficient to produce an excess of consumer products. When we think that more than half of the entire capitalist production and all the non-productive activities linked to it—without even considering the means of production not utilized—have nothing to do with human consumption, but only have meaning in relation to this irrational capitalist society, it becomes clear that in a future communist economy it will be easy to produce such an excess of consumer goods that any calculation of individual distribution in terms of socially necessary labor will become useless.”

One part of the text that may seem especially dated to a twenty-first century reader is its designation of the industrial working class as the basis of the system of social organization. As capitalism develops, the composition of the working class is constantly changing. Nevertheless, Fundamental Principles holds that the council system of the new society must be founded on the industrial proletariat, which therefore determines the position of all other classes in the new social system. In his preface, Mattick made some striking comments in this regard. During capitalism’s recent development, the proportion of factory workers has decreased relative to the population, but the number of salaried workers has grown. Because production has become increasingly dependent on science, it is now possible to consider universities as “factories.” “If in capitalism, surplus-value [the source of capitalism’s profits] can only come from unpaid labor, i.e. from surplus labor, regardless of the level of science, in communism, social prosperity is expressed not by an increase of labor, but by a constant reduction of required labor, due to scientific developments now freed of capitalist constraints.” Thus, the continual socialization of production translates into “the incorporation of ever greater masses into the production process, which now cannot exist without a closer relationship among and interpenetration of all kinds of work. In short, the concept of the working-class is widening. . . . The constant evolution of the division of labor already tends towards the disappearance of the separation between the professional and non-professional, between manual and intellectual work, between workshop and office, between worker and manager. This process, which, with the incorporation of all producers into a production oriented towards greater socialization, can lead to a system of councils that in fact would include all of society and, consequently, put an end to class domination.”

Mattick warned against the temptation to fetishize the council system. “Society can always backtrack and, obviously, the council system can break down. For example, if the producers should lose interest in self-management, the functions fulfilled by the councils would then be transferred to other bodies, even within the [council] system itself, which would then become autonomous in relation to the producers.” The Fundamental Principles authors thought they could avoid the dangers of bureaucratization or of specialists and experts taking over power through the introduction of technical proposals. But, as in any social system, the council system is the creation of a collectivity that depends on its autonomous activity. “Communism . . . does not have a life of its own, or a will to which individuals must inevitably bend; ‘the actual production process’ is determined by individuals, even if the individuals are organized into the council system.” To use a phrase of Kropotkin’s about the French Revolution, during the whole revolutionary process, the communist idea must always strive to emerge.

Without discussing other criticisms and clarifications, we agree with Paul Mattick’s conclusion: “Fundamental Principles does not propose a finished program; it is a first attempt to better understand the problem of communist production and distribution … Even if Fundamental Principles deals with a future society, it is nonetheless a historical document that clarifies the level of the discussion in the past. Its authors focused on discussing questions of socialization posed more than half a century ago. Some of their arguments are no longer pertinent. . . . Whatever the weaknesses of Fundamental Principle, it remains today as yesterday the starting point for any serious discussion or research about the realization of a communist society.”14

In most Western European countries, the social consensus was crumbling in the second half of the 1960s. There, mounting struggles of the new working class, which emerged from post-war capitalist development, and the growing student protest movements coincided with the first great waves of worker agitation and rebellion in the Eastern European state-capitalist bloc and social and political instability in China. Protestors criticizing in practice the rigid and bureaucratic models of “actually existing socialism,” striking workers breaking out of traditional trade-union confines and calling for “rank and file democracy,” brought a new dynamism to political discussion. Texts and debates about the history of the soviets and councils in the Russian and German revolutions were rediscovered, disseminated, and placed at the center of political confrontation. Texts about the German Revolution especially attracted those protesting militants who distanced themselves from Leninist rhetoric, which many felt was linked to Stalinist rigidity and Soviet communism then in crisis. The rediscovery of Rosa Luxemburg’s writings had an important place in the revival of socialist ideas. Finally, the appeal of anti-authoritarian Marxist currents echoed a new interest in anarchist and libertarian currents in general.

The crisis of the Italian Communist Party and the rise of autonomous worker struggles in northern Italy opened a cycle of intense political debates from which organizations, groups, and publications emerged that were identified with currents called “operaismo” (workerism);15 operaismo had a real grip on Italian worker struggles and on the most combative sections of the Italian working class in the 1960s and 1970s. The relationship between a revival of vanguard politics and organization was at the center of those debates and the question of councils also returned to center stage.16

Some operaisti used the concept of “class composition” as the means to put forward a very partial (and not impartial) explanation of the council movement, advancing the idea that the council movement’s only aim was to manage the existing socio-economic reality. In their view, the council was a typical product of the professional worker, who knows and dominates the production process and tries to take control of it. In general, the operaisti avoided dealing with any of the practical criticisms council theory made about party ideologies. And they also seemed to underestimate the dynamic dimension of this phenomenon, which they analyzed as if the forms the council had taken were simply determined by its class composition. Against this argument, historian Marco Baluschi concluded that “it is not possible to establish a rigid correspondence between the form of the council as such and any particular class composition or any one particular ideology,” and he pointed out that alongside workplace councils in Germany, one could find “other organizational forms of the council type with completely different characteristics and functions,” such as the territorial councils in the Ruhr, the councils of the unemployed in central Germany and in the Vogtland, or the councils of workers and soldiers who animated the November Revolution.17

Italy’s operaismo theoreticians were the first in Western Europe in the post-war years to advance the idea that councils were organizations for managing “existing reality”. Given their ideological formation, which for the most part came out of orthodox Communism, it is not surprising that their arguments were drawn from the Stalinist communist historiography of councils, especially from official authors of the GDR at that time. The operaisti adroitly presented in modern rhetoric the old bolshevik discourse that made the professional worker into the basic element of a reformist “labor aristocracy.” There was a political choice in this sociologizing theory. As historian Gianni Carrozza observed, this approach totally sidesteps what he called “the council dynamic,” that is, the spirit of councilism. By a noteworthy tour de force, the operaisti reduced the council movement to councils assuring the co-management of the labor force in enterprises, controlled by the social-democratic logic of the Weimar Republic. The subversive spirit of the councils, their principle of self-government went, with losses and gains, into the dustbin of history and the council idea was treated as an ideology of management tied to the struggles of artisanal and crafts workers controlled by reformist parties.

Such an idea could not answer questions raised by the radicalization of the new working class of the postwar period— the “mass worker” in operaist terminology. Now freed from the control of PCI and the labor union, the “mass worker,” in the view of the operaisti, must construct a new vanguard, a task in which they intended to play a leading role.18

In France, starting in 1949, the journal of the group Socialisme ou Barbarie carried an ongoing theoretical critique of bureaucratic communism which opened a breach in the frozen ideology of Stalinism.19 But the louder echo that these anti-authoritarian ideas soon met with was inseparable from the student movement and the general strike of May ’68. During the May movement, members and followers of the Internationale Situationiste advanced a concept of councils that gained acceptance and also left some traces—at the risk of an improbable theoretical construction, which at times ended in the fetishization of the council form and which spread the problematic concept of “councilism.”

After May ’68, a few small circles undertook to tackle the fetishism of councils, in turn making the mistake of criticizing an alleged “councilist ideology.” There was, indeed, a small socialist current, around since the 1930s, that advocated council communism, in opposition to party communism. This current tried to extract from the soviet and council movements some of the general ideas that animated councils, going back to the principle of action and direct democracy as well as the project of a new society. But it seems rather questionable to refer to an ideology that never actually existed in the real historical movement. In fact, it would be more accurate to see “councilism” as a fictional construction intended to fuel controversy. In contrast to the Italian discussion, these debates in France remained within a more confined ideological framework, without direct links to the confrontations of political currents in society and still less in the workers’ world.

Most of the criticism by anti-councilist currents was based on the ideas found in Fundamental Principles discussed above and accessible in France after May 68.20 Criticism, which was above all theoretical, moved into the Marxist debate over whether or not the “law of value,” as Marx conceived of it, would exist during the “transition period.”21 Clearly, the real problem to be confronted in the dismantling of the capitalist order is not that of value, which is only a conceptual model for analyzing the reality of exploitation. The real problem is the reality of the social relations of the exploitation of concrete labor.

In Fundamental Principles, the “transition period” was associated with a method of accounting in the new mode of production and distribution based on “labor vouchers.” For its critics, the mere existence of accounting based on labor time was confirmation of the continuation of the “law of value,” and therefore, the capitalist nature of the project. Critics thought they found support for their orthodoxy in the fact that Marx never referred to such an accounting method in his Grundrisse. Written in 1857, Marx’s reflections on the organization of a non-capitalist society attacked the conceptions of Ricardian socialists and the model of communal economy he associated with Proudhon. He did not tackle the question of accounting for distribution in a non-capitalist society. Moreover, as these writings were only known late in the twentieth century, they could not have influenced the authors of Fundamental Principles.

The critics did not take into consideration that the certainly debatable method of accounting in Fundamental Principles was associated with the producers’ conscious and direct control. Now, if a commodity-producing capitalist society is characterized by the existence of alienated labor, a basic trait is the absence of producer control over social relations and society. Marx himself maintained that if work is directly associated with the producer, it then appears in the products in a direct way and not in the form of value exchange. This conscious control by producers over production and distribution is at the heart of the idea of councils. For the critics, the collectivity in the council system would remain controlled, despite their own control over their activity, by an objective force outside their own social organization, the “law of value.” Thus, the Fundamental Principles model was rejected as reproducing capitalist social relations, and, by association, the council system was identified as the management of capitalist social relations by the producers themselves. This differed from the position of the Italian operaisti, who, for reasons concerning their own neo-Leninist project, associated the council system with reformism. But here too, councilism was considered to have the vocation of “managing existing reality.” It was reduced to an ideology of self-management, a project that left “value” relations intact—one simplification, among others, that made little of the revolutionary experience of partisans of the council idea.

This theoretical formulation, elaborated by “a small committee” in the years after 1968, later found new followers. Any rhetoric calling for the disappearance of the state—inciting the overthrow of existing production relations, advocating the end of wage labor, profit, classes, and, finally, the end of all forms of domination—aims to be seductive. All the more so, if it attributes to the subversive movement demands for the immediate creation of a new world on the ruins of the old. In this logic, communism as an immediate goal must do away with any transition period that would return to the pre-conditions of communism—conditions inexorably associated with the Russian experience of an authoritarian centralization of the economy and the dictatorship of a party, including the transitional program of the bolshevik opposition.

Whatever their weaknesses and limitations and those of their times, the authors of Fundamental Principles went at the question differently. If they did not definitively reject the necessity for a transition period of reconstruction, they did elaborate on their socialist system from the idea of councils and in opposition to any state program.

In the present historical moment—characterized by a long-running capitalist crisis with devastating consequences for societies, economies, and the environment, with permanent conditions of war and barbarism—to think about a radical transformation of the world is, in itself, a mental challenge. But to think about it by ignoring or dismissing the tasks of social reconstruction doubles the challenge. Ultimately, the question of the transition period, like those of the principles of distribution, must be left to creative capacities to be liberated by a rupture with the old world. The only condition is that choices be explained and discussed in the larger framework of a system of direct democracy. To pretend otherwise—to be able to cut choices off in advance—belongs more to rigidity of thought than to ideological coherence.

Serge Bricianer’s conclusion to his anthology of the writings of Anton Pannekoek might appear as a singular way to promote the old communist left’s theoretical idea of council-communism, “Council communism belongs to the past,” he elaborated, “to attempt to revive certain outmoded ideas, to passively seek a signpost to present conduct in a history forever past and gone, can only feed dogma. . . .”22 The defeat of the working class in what Eric Hobsbawm called the Age of Extremes was the main reason for the neglect of these ideas, ideas which nevertheless reappear, in new forms in new historical conditions. The council idea was born out of the crisis of the workers’ movement at the beginning of the twentieth century, out of the bankruptcy of the forms of organization—the party and the trade union—that had served the ascendant phase of capitalism. The spirit and the general ideas which animated the new struggles in this period’s revolutionary convulsions formed the foundation of this idea. It designated a set of emancipatory and collective practices and ideas, and the conceptual project of an organization of a society liberated from wage labor and its social relations. It is a milestone on a deeper, historical path that started with the movement for direct democracy and a real people’s sovereignty led by the enragés the French Revolution. It will reappear in today’s societies and in those to come as long as struggles for social emancipation spring back. Only the principles which animated the council movement of the past can have a future.


* Translated by Janet Koenig from Charles Reeve, Le socialisme sauvage (Paris: L’Echappee, 2018), Chapter 10. 


  1. An important book on these tendencies and their texts is All Power to the Councils! A Documentary History of the German Revolution of 1918-1919, edited and translated by Gabriel Kuhn (London: Merlin Press, 2012). A good biography of Richard Müller—together with Ernest Däumig an important member of the Berlin Revolutionary Stewards group—is Ralf Hoffragge, Richard Müller. Der Mann hinter der Novemberrevolution (Berlin: Karl Dietz Verlag, 2008).
  2. The text Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution, was published in German by the Allgemeine Arbeiterunion Deutschlands (General Workers’ Union of Germany) in 1930. It was the final version of a draft written in prison during 1923-1925 by Jan Appel, a leader fof the leftist party KAPD. An English translation of the work can be found on various online sites, including these two: (which includes the 1970 Introduction by Paul Mattick); and
  3. Hence the circle’s interest in the work of Sebastien Faure on production and distribution in commmunes: Sebastien Faure, Mon communisme : le bonheur universel (Paris, 1921).
  4. Paul Mattick, Einleitung, Grundprinzipien kommunistischer Produktion und Verteilung (Berlin: Rüdiger Blankertz Verlag, 1970), pp, I-XVII. For an English transation:
  5. Henk Canne Meijer, Les conseils ouvriers en Allemagne, 1918 – 1921, Echanges et Mouvement, Dec. 2007, p.30.
  6. Otto Neurath, “Total Socialization of the Two Stages of the Future to Come,” in Economic Writings, 1904-1945 (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 2004), p. 391.
  7. His most important theoretical work is Workers Councils, first published in Holland in 1946; an English translation was (re)published by AK Press in 2003.
  8. Anton Pannekoek, Workers Councils, Ch. 4, “Social Organization.”
  9. Karl Marx, Critique du Programme du parti ouvrier allemand (1875), in Œuvres de Karl Marx, Economie I, Gallimard, 1963, édition établie par Maximilien Rubel, pp. 1415, 1419.
  10. Ibid., p. 1420.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Ibid., p. 1418.
  13. Otto Neurath, “Total Socialisation of the Two Stages of the Future to Come ,,” pp. 433, 435, 433.”
  14. Paul Mattick, Preface, Fundamental Principles.
  15. This current of thought and activity found expression in the publications Quaderni Rossi, Classe Operaia, La Classe, Potere Operaio, and Lotta Continua; it originated with intellectuals coming from the Italian Communist Party and union officials, who sought a new strategy to intervene in social struggles.
  16. See Gianni Carrozza, “Il movimento degli consigli in Allemania,” in L’Altronovecento. Comunismo eretico e pensiero critico (Milan: Jaca Book, 2009), vol. I, L’Età del Comunismo Sovietico (1900-1945), p. 40-59.
  17. Marco Baluschi, “Il movimento degli consigli e la formazione dell’ideologia consilia,” in Consigli operai e comunismo dei consigli, (Florence: Collegamenti per l’organizzazione diretta di classe, 1981), No. 3.
  18. On these possibilities and the role of avant-garde revolutionary minorities, see Paul Mattick’s interview in Lotta Continua, October 1977.
  19. Among these little groups within the antiauthoritarian socialist current: Cahiers de discussion pour le socialisme des conseils, Informations et correspondance ouvrières (ICO), Groupe de liaison pour l’Action des Travailleurs (GLAT), and Noir et Rouge-Cahiers d’études anarcho-communistes.
  20. The most widely-read texts developing these ideas were those of Jean Barrot (Le mouvement communiste, Paris: Champ Libre, 1972) and, by the same author under the name of Gilles Dauvé, De la crise à la communisation (Paris: Entremonde, 2017).
  21. For a critique of these ideas centered on the interpretation of the law of value, see David Adam, “Marx’s Critique of Socialist Labor-Money Schemes and the Myth of Council Communism’s Proudhonism,”’s-critique-socialist-labor-money-schemes-and-myth-council-communism’s-proudhonism.
  22. Serge Bricianer, Pannekoek and the Workers Councils, trans. Malachy Carroll (Saint Louis: Telos Press, 1978), p. 298.


Charles Reeve

CHARLES REEVE lives and writes in Paris.